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2016 Honda Civic EX Sedan Review

A master class in delivering exactly what drivers need

Forget Kevin Bacon. Everyone has a connection to the Honda Civic. Maybe it was the hand-me-down ride you learned to drive in, the rusty-but-trusty car that got you through college, or the efficient economy car that shuttles you and your family around town. Today as much as ever before, the Honda Civic must appeal to drivers of all kinds. We know we love the loaded-up, turbocharged 2016 Honda Civic Touring, but how well does the much more affordable 2016 Honda Civic EX match up with what everyday drivers expect from a compact sedan?

For most buyers, EX looks to be the 2016 Honda Civic trim level to buy because it represents exceptional value for money. (We'd definitely skip the base LX trim level; it comes with unsightly steel wheels and hubcaps, plus a much less functional infotainment system.) For less than $22,000, the 2016 Civic EX packs a touchscreen infotainment system, heated seats, a backup camera, LaneWatch, and push-button start. It even packs remote start, which isn't available from the factory at all on some of the car's key competitors, such as the Ford Focus and Mazda3.

You'll also find the 2016 Honda Civic to be extremely spacious, whether you're loading groceries into its capacious trunk through the low, wide opening or loading three adults abreast in the back seat. From the driver's seat, there's also a sense of roominess and airiness that helps make the Civic feel much more spacious than its spec chart suggests.

Base engine is no compromise

Though much ink has been spilled on the appeal of the Civic's optional turbo engine, we can make a strong case for the base, naturally aspirated 2.0-liter in this EX model. It revs quickly and smoothly, although it does drone loudly under acceleration when the continuously variable transmission keeps revs high. On the other hand, the CVT's long-legged gearing makes the engine almost imperceptibly quiet when cruising since it settles down to 1,900 rpm at 70 mph on the highway. No wonder the instant-MPG readout routinely flirts with the EPA rating of 41 mpg. (We generally averaged around 37-38 mpg on the highway.)

The downside of that tall, fuel-efficient gearing is that acceleration away from a stoplight is lazy. The engine moans and strains if you want the 0-to-30-mph run to be anything close to brisk. Once on the move, though, the engine's 158 hp and 138 lb-ft is plenty of motivation for the sub-2,800-pound sedan (one of the lightest in its segment), providing snappy and responsive acceleration.

The smooth powertrain has been complemented by light, accurate steering, easy-to-modulate disc brakes, and a supremely compliant ride, and all this makes any sort of driving feel natural and easy. The 2016 Civic EX sedan is without a doubt the quietest car in its class on the freeway, even though the Firestone FT140 all-season tires trip audibly over expansion joints.

Interior is better than ever

What makes driving the 2016 Honda Civic EX even easier is its new instrument display and dashboard. The old car's confusing split-level dash is gone in favor of one simple, in-your-face digital instrument cluster that is exceptional clear and legible. The same goes for the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which makes any task simple. Its graphics are plain, and we'll never stop griping about the lack of physical volume and tuning buttons, but it takes only a few minutes to acclimate to the system. Though it lacks a CD player or aux port, it has USB and Bluetooth audio music inputs.

Plugging your Android Auto- or Apple CarPlay-enabled smartphone into one of the radio's USB ports instantly brings up your smartphone's navigation apps, music, and phone contacts, so it's more like using your phone than using Honda's interface. We just wish the USB ports weren't so hard to reach; they're tucked down by the driver's knee under the center console and take some unusual wrist twisting to plug in.

It's not perfect in every respect ...

The compact-sedan segment has matured significantly in the past decade, so shoppers expect a greater level of refinement than ever before. It's in this respect the 2016 Honda Civic EX lets us down by failing to nail some of the basics that rivals such as the Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3 do so well. For instance, the underside of the parcel shelf is unlined, so audio system's speakers and wires are exposed. The glovebox door isn't damped and slams open the second you touch the latch. The digital cyan-color bar graphs for the gas gauge and temperature readout are really tricky to read at a glance. And the gaps at the side of the car's touchscreen were markedly different on either side of the dash.

... But it's probably the most perfect car in its class

There was no question from any editor who drove it that the 2016 Honda Civic EX is the compact sedan for everyone. It's certainly not the most alluring or the best-driving car in its class, and though it is the most striking Civic in at least a decade, the exterior look is still polarizing. Yet the 2016 Civic is the car that works in every real-life situation for every driver, every day of the year. Spacious, comfortable, efficient, and easy to use, we struggle to think of a situation in which the 2016 Honda Civic wouldn't excel.

"This Civic will be the go-to car to recommend to anyone looking for a stylish, sensible, and reliable family sedan," agreed Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa. Added daily news editor Eric Weiner: "The 2016 Civic isn't the most new amazing car we've ever seen, but it's an extremely good one that does almost everything right."

The 2016 Honda Civic sedan is not without fault, but it's a master class in delivering exactly what most drivers need in a compact sedan.

2016 Honda Civic EX Sedan Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $21,875
Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4/158 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 138 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable
Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA Mileage: 31/41 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 182.3 x 70.8 x 55.7 in
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Weight: 2,795 lb
0-60 MPH: N/A
Top Speed: N/A